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Seasonal Sensory Bin Idea

Arts & Fine Motor

What is a sensory bin?

In short, a sensory bin is a bin of some sort filled with a variety of materials to stimulate sensory needs. Sensory bins help students to stimulate some or all of their five senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.

Why do we use sensory bins? 

Sensory play is a huge part of brain development for children. Sensory bins support meaningful play, where kids can learn and practice social skills. It sparks creativity, and better yet, promotes fine motor skills! Sensory bins help students to focus and calm down. 

Who are they for? 

Sensory bins can be introduced to toddlers. There is really no end age, because honestly if you have a student that requires the sensory need, you can still use it. Whether they are five years old, or 22 years old. If it helps meet their needs, then of course use it! 

When can we use sensory bins? 

Sensory bins can be used when students are experiencing a sensory overload. Sensory bins are also wonderful to incorporate to your everyday routine in the classroom! It can be used as a workstation, recess time, structured free time, or just free time alone! The great thing is that kids consider it as play, which it is, but they are still learning and developing their play, social, and fine motor skills! 

I want to use them; how do I get started? 

I have listed some awesome materials from online retailers, in store retailers, and household items, to kick start your sensory bins! There are 3 parts to your sensory bin: the bins (of course!), the fillers, and the tools. Check it out! 

The Bins: 

The Fillers: 

DIY and Household Item Fillers: 

Because let’s be honest, us teachers spend a lot of money out of pocket, and it adds up quickly. There are some awesome fillers you can use with everyday household items, or materials you can repurpose!

  • Shredded Crinkle Paper – Have any leftover wrapping paper, scratch paper, or newspapers? Shred them or cut them thin, and then crinkle them! This is a great filler, especially for our kiddos who do not like anything sticky or slimy! 
  • Rice or Pasta – Grab some uncooked rice or pasta and pour it in a bin. To add a little twist, you can add food dye to the rice. This would be perfect for a seasonal sensory box! 
  • Cereal – even if it is expired. I will note that if you have a student that puts items in their mouth, I would avoid this option, and any fillers that the student may choke on. 
  • Beans – yes you can dye these too! I learned this tip from Celena Kinsey (@Celenakinsey) on TikTok. Put the beans in a gallon size Ziploc bag. Add a little bit of hand sanitizer and acrylic paint. Lay it out on a baking sheet to dry. It will dry within a few hours!
  • Paper Towel or Toilet Paper Rolls – can be used as tubes or is great as a sorting activity. Label each tube with a letter, and students can sort objects in the bin with the beginning letter sound. Double bonus! 
  • Cotton Balls – this is a great alternative to pom poms 
  • Shaving Cream
  • Straws – you can keep them whole or you can cut them up into smaller pieces. 
  • Ice Trays – students can sort items into each part of the tray by color or shape. 

Sometimes the best items are found randomly or during specific seasons. I highly recommend checking out your local Dollar Store, or Dollar Tree to see what items they have. Check out their entire store, because you never know what you may find in each department! 

The Tools: 

Teachers are always busy!! Maybe we don’t have time to make our own sensory bins for our classroom. If that’s the case, I have linked some ready to go sensory boxes that can be used in your classroom!

Seasonal Ideas:

Saint Patrick’s Day 

Here is a fun Saint Patty’s Day themed Sensory Box! Students can play with the rice, pom poms, and gold coins. For an added bonus for academics, you can ask students to sort the pom poms and gold coins into the mini cauldrons. 

Want to know something awesome?! I was able to make this St. Patrick’s Day Sensory Bin with ALL materials from the Dollar Tree!! What?! Yes. Check out what I bought! 

  • Plastic Shoe Box Storage Container with Lid 
  • Green Rice 
    • Now this was the easiest dyed rice I have made, thanks to Celena Kinsey (@Celenakinsey) on TikTok! Pour the rice into a gallon size Ziploc bag. Add a little bit of hand sanitizer and food dye. Shake it up. Let it dry for about ten minutes. And you are good to go! So fast, so easy! 
  • Gold Coins
  • Mini Cauldrons
  • Beaded Necklaces – I ended up cutting these up for students to play with. Your choice to keep them as necklaces or to cut them up!
  • Green and Yellow Pom Poms 
  • Plastic Food Tongs

Ocean

Here is a fun sensory bin you can use ALL yearlong! Plus, this is great for our kiddos that love water. When you are adding the water beads, you can choose to leave some water in the bin, or just have the water beads, totally your preference, plus the mess you are willing to clean up if the water spills! As you can see in my sensory bin, I have created my own laminated water cards with numbers 1-10. Feel free to differentiate and make cards to meet the needs of your students! Whether that is ABC order, counting by 5’s, or counting to 20.

Here are the materials I used in this fun box, with links to where I got them! 

Spring

Spring is in the air! Let’s put together a spring sensory box. In this sensory box, you will see that the main filler is colored pom poms. This is a soft texture for our students to play with. Students can use the plastic tongs, or the circle scooper to put the pom poms in the easter eggs. Students are using their fine motor skills while scooping, and picking up the pom poms, and then again when they open or close the easter eggs! Another fun twist is to number the carrots, and to have students put the numbers in order. Again, you can differentiate to meet the needs of your students. Whether it is sorting the pom poms by colors in the Easter eggs, or counting by 10’s with the carrots! 

Here are the materials I used in this fun box, with links to where I got them! 

Halloween

Option 1: 

Slimy Spaghetti! Perfect for Halloween! Cook up some spaghetti and dye it to make a fun Halloween themed sensory box. Add some Halloween themed toys, such as different colored spiders, and Halloween cauldrons. Students can sort the spiders by color in the cauldrons. Another option is to have safe plastic scissors for students to cut the spaghetti. 

Here are the materials I used in this fun box, with links to where I got them! 

  • Orange and Black Cooked Spaghetti 
  • Plastic Spiders – if possible, try to get them in different colors. Can also be found at Dollar Tree during Halloween season. 
  • Plastic Halloween Cauldrons – from Dollar Tree 
  • Plastic Training Scissors – can be used to cut the spaghetti

Option 2: 

This option is really fun for working on fine motor skills! Make some Jell-O and add some Halloween themed toys before the Jell-O sets! Have students use tweezers to grab the items out of the Jell-O! Have a combination of different sized items, to differentiate the difficulty. 

Here are the materials I used in this fun box, with links to where I got them! 

  • Orange Jell-O
  • Plastic Halloween Themed Toys – plastic spiders, eyes, teeth, or bones! You can find these at Dollar Tree, or you can get a Halloween Novelty Pack with a variety of toys from Amazon! 
  • Tweezers – students can grab the toys out of the orange Jell-O 

Winter Wonderland 

Who loves the snow? Me!! Who has students who have never experienced snow? Me!! This sensory bin is awesome for SO many reasons! I have used this Amazing Super Snow Powder from Amazon as my main filler. An alternative to the snow powder is cotton balls, or water beads. The plastic circle scooper is great for making “snowballs.” I have also added some winter themed plastic figurines to promote play and social skills. Lastly, I added some laminated letter cards for students to practice making letters with their fingers. You can differentiate this task by having students write numbers, sight words, CVC words, really anything! Make it your own and have fun! 

Here are the materials I used in this fun box, with links to where I got them! 

  • Amazing Super Snow Powder
  • Plastic Circle Scooper – from the Dollar Tree
  • Winter Themed Plastic Figurines – from Dollar Tree 
  • Laminated Letter Themed Cards 

What is your favorite fillers for sensory bins?

We’d love to know what works for you in the classroom or at home. Post in the comments.

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